Science

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Shari Vialpando/AP

Youth Violence Tied to Genes in Latest DNA Research

July 17, 2008 10:12 AM
by Josh Katz
A study from a team at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill suggests that genetics plays an important role in violence and delinquency in young men.

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The study, which appears in the August issue of the American Sociological Review, claims that variations in three genes are associated with males who grow up to become more violent than others.

But the research indicates that other factors, such as family, friends and school, also have an impact and help account for the differences among those with genetic dispositions toward delinquency.

The team studied information from 1,100 boys in grades 7–12. Variations in the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene, the dopamine transporter 1 (DAT1) gene and the dopamine D2 receptor (DRD2) gene were linked to delinquency, but “Positive influences appeared to reduce the effect of the genes, while an absence of positive influences amplified the effects,” according to Canwest News Service.

For example, having regular meals with parents served to moderate the effects of the “risky” DRD2 gene, whereas not having those meals amplified the aggression.

In regard to the implications of the research, the “The ethical issue must be considered, as well,” said leader of the study Gang Guo. “Will it stigmatize the children?”

Another recent study said genetics played a large part in the extent of an individual’s political involvement.

The desire to learn about human genetic predispositions is gaining popularity, and not only in the scientific community. A number of companies are sprouting up seeking to map a person’s genetic code for a fee. However, California recently interceded by requiring customers to consult a doctor before acquiring such potentially weighty information about their genetic makeup.

Headline Link: ‘Home, school setting can moderate teen “risky” genes’

Related Topics: Delinquency research; genetic testing companies; genes linked to behavior

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